Quality of Life:    

What Really Determines Quality of Life?

Common conceptions of what defines “quality of life” such as environment, standard of living, health, social position, education etc may not be adequate measures.



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What Really Determines Quality of Life?

There are many factors that can influence the quality of life, but let’s consider: what do modern people mean by “quality of life”? The modern conception of quality of life is a combination of factors: environment, standard of living, mental and physical health, social position, education, etc. But can we say with confidence that these are the only factors that determine one’s quality of life, or is there something else? Something that is more important than all the well known and well studied factors?

We may say that today people’s lives have become easy, with the development of science and new technologies. But as everything in the world, it has two sides. For instance, the development of nanotechnologies lets us create materials with absolutely unique properties, that enhance simultaneously both living standards and medical practice, because nanorobots can be used for delivering medicine exactly to the place in the body where it is needed, and this cure is ten times more effective because it is localized. But at the same time scientists still cannot come to an agreement about the effects of nanoparticles on the human body, because as these particles have a size of about 100 nanometers and less, they can cause great damage if they are inhaled and appear in the lungs. The situation is the same with such a relevant problem as carbon dioxide. It is known that if we do not decrease our production of CO 2 , it will be impossible to live on our planet in a hundred years. But most processes today are impossible without releasing CO 2 , because gas, coal, and petrol remain the most widely used fuels. That is why it is a vital problem to increase our use of alternative sources of energy—solar cells, hydrogen fuel cells, wind power, etc. But before we can completely replace traditional energy sources with renewable ones, there is still a lot of work to do. The main problem is developing advanced materials with unique properties, which will now determine how the development of high technologies progresses. All the electronic devices that have become an essential part of our modern life would not have been designed without them.

At the same time, many of the modern electronic devices that were designed to make our life easier have also led to the destruction of basic skills for some people. When people begin to replace their brains with computers, their legs with cars, and real conversations with e-mail, then we face a big problem: instead of the huge help of new technology we may see people who have not learned how to live without it. That is why it is extremely important to remind people about the great power within themselves, about real human nature, and then when such a person uses the products of modern high technologies we will get a new quality of people’s activity.

Another vital influence of new technologies touches the problem of nature and the environment. It is impossible to have quality of life while polluting and destroying nature. Few things in the world have the ability to restore people to health as quickly and powerfully as nature does. In fact, that is what we must first think about—especially today. We observe profound climate change all over the planet; water in the rivers and seas is getting more and more polluted. For instance, the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” is estimated to have an area approximately the size of the state of Texas, and it consists mostly of plastic debris. The formation of the Great Pacific Garbage Path was predicted by scientists in 1988, and in 1997 it was found. Most polymer particles are invisible to the naked eye, but they are enough to damage organisms that live in this environment.

It is time to help our planet, because by helping nature we help ourselves. Quality water, quality air, quality food—that is what really matters, and these basic needs are the foundation on which people build their lives. We may say that new technologies in fact cannot always help us to control the quality of life, because they usually increase one factor and decrease another, and we cannot say with confidence whether we really win or lose. But at the same time theoretical science remains one of the most important factors in enhancing people’s quality of life—we just have to be more careful with its practical application, and always do it in accordance with environmental factors.

To exclude the factor of high technology, let’s refer to the history of ancient civilizations. And what do we see? We can easily see that irrespective of the differences among ancient countries, they are still equal from the point of view of what determines life-quality. If we consider the life spans of some ancient Greek personalities, we see that the philosopher Xenophanes lived for 90 years, the ph ysician Hippocrates 90 or 100 years, the historian Xenophon 80 years, the astronomer and mathematician Aristarchus 80 years, the poet and dramatist Euripides 76 years. According to the statistical data we can say that life span usually depends on quality of life: the longest life span in the world is in the European countries and Japan—countries that are known for providing their citizens with a high standard of living. So what do we see? Ancient people who did not have such high technologies or advanced medicine could live and work to a rather advanced age. But what do all these people have in common? They were involved in science and art. And even now we may say that countries where science and art are on a high level are characterized by rather high quality of life. But why is it so? Why do theoretical science, literature, art, and philosophy let people live longer and make their lives interesting even if they do not have a high living standard?

If we think deeper, we will see that science and art affect the internal, not the external state of humans, and they change people from deep inside: they form a special way of thinking, a special attitude toward negative factors. People who create are endowed with an ability not only to prolong their own lives, but also to make them brighter and deeper, irrespective of external conditions.

Today people all over the world get more and more stressed. They may have a lot of money, a big house, and a good job, but sometimes it doesn’t help. Why not? Perhaps it is that people don’t know what they really were meant to do. Or they are just lost and can’t find the way among many possibilities. But it is a rare job that offers no place for creativity. And when there is no creativity, there is no life! And when there is no life it is impossible to enhance its quality. That is why sometimes-general standards of better life don’t work.

Another important factor in life quality is freedom—freedom to create, freedom to develop, freedom to make choices. From this point of view we may say that the policies of a country’s government and its regime may also have a great influence on the quality of life. For instance, in the 1960s the former Soviet Union was full of new-age writers, scientists, poets, and other artists, but because of the very strict regime these people did not have the chance to work, and other people could not enjoy the fruits of their work, and as a result we may not see very long life spans, especially among those people who were involved in science and art.

Philosophers say that when you change your attitude, you change your life. This doesn’t mean that external factors are not important, but a person’s mental state is sometimes the key to understanding an illness. Thus we can conclude that quality of life is determined mostly not by external but by internal conditions. If we want to enhance the quality of life, we must focus our attention on those factors that may change people from deep inside; otherwise all external conditions, including high living standards and social positions, will be meaningless.

Talking about new technologies, scientists must always keep in mind harmony and nature, and only after analyzing their inventions from this point of view should they decide to give life to them. We also have to remember that our life depends on the natural environment, and that in caring for nature we care for ourselves. When every single person tries every day to bring quality to every kind of activity and for every kind of human being, this will enhance the quality of life for everybody in the world. Freedom, creativity, learning, harmony in everything we do—these are the real factors that produce a high quality of life and a healthy nation, and provide our progeny with a strong foundation for the future.